A federal judge ordered the Bush administration on Thursday to release documents about its warrantless surveillance program or spell out what it is withholding, a setback to efforts to keep the program under wraps.
At the same time, the Republican chairman of the Senate Intelligence Committee said he had worked out an agreement with the White House to consider legislation and provide more information to Congress on the eavesdropping program. The panel’s top Democrat, who has requested a full-scale investigation, immediately objected to what he called an abdication of the committee’s responsibilities.
U.S. District Judge Henry Kennedy ruled that a private group, the Electronic Privacy Information Center, will suffer irreparable harm if the documents it has been seeking since December are not processed promptly under the Freedom of Information Act. He gave the Justice Department 20 days to respond to the group’s request.
“President Bush has invited meaningful debate about the wireless surveillance program,” Kennedy said. “That can only occur if DOJ processes its FOIA requests in a timely fashion and releases the information sought.”
Justice Department spokeswoman Tasia Scolinos said the department has been “extremely forthcoming” with information and “will continue to meet its obligations under FOIA.”
On Capitol Hill, lawmakers also have been seeking more information about Bush’s program that allowed the National Security Agency to eavesdrop — without court warrants — on Americans whose international calls and e-mails it believed might be linked to al-Qaida.
Later Thursday, Bush adviser Karl Rove told at the University of Central Arkansas: “The purpose of the terrorist-surveillance program is to protect lives. The president’s actions were legal and fully consistent with the 4th Amendment and the protection of our civil liberties under the constitution.”
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The Electronic Privacy Information Center sued the government in January to dislose information from the domestic(?) surveillance program:
Seeking to compel the immediate disclosure of information concerning the dministration’s warrantless domestic surveillance program, the Electronic Privacy Information Center (EPIC) today filed a Freedom of Information Act lawsuit against the Department of Justice. The suit asks the federal court in Washington to issue a
preliminary injunction requiring the release of relevant documents within 20 days. The case has been assigned to Judge Henry H. Kennedy, Jr. of the United States District Court for the District of Columbia.
This is not the first time the Clinton appointee, Judge Henry H. Kennedy, Jr., has ruled against the Bush Administration in favor of Al Qaeda:
A federal judge in Washington has barred the government from moving 13 Yemenis from Guantanamo Bay to other countries without at least 30 days notice. The judge says the prisoners need a chance to challenge the transfer.
A lawyer for the Yemenis says the men fear winding up in jail indefinitely without due process of law. The lawyer also says the men are worried that they might face torture in another country.
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THE WASHINGTON TIMES 2/10/00 Jerry Seper “…..The Judicial Council of the D.C. Circuit, in a terse two-paragraph ruling, ordered acting Appeals Court Chief Judge Stephen F. Williams to determine why a random computer assignment system at the court was bypassed in four campaign fund-raising prosecutions and a tax-evasion case against Clinton pal Webster L. Hubbell.
Chief District Judge Norma Holloway Johnson abandoned the computer system to send the cases to judges appointed by Mr. Clinton. She has declined public comment on the decision, but told The Washington Times in a letter last month she was authorized to assign “protracted or complex criminal cases to consenting judges when circumstances warrant,” although she did not elaborate.
The new investigation was sought by Rep. Howard Coble, North Carolina Republican and chairman of a House subcommittee that oversees the courts, and Judicial Watch, a conservative public interest law firm…….Mr. Coble’s concerns focused on cases involving Mr. Hubbell, former associate attorney general; Arkansas businessman Charles Yah Lin Trie; Democratic fund-raiser Howard Glicken; Thai lobbyist Pauline Kanchanalak; and Miami fund-raiser Mark B. Jimenez. The judges were Paul L. Friedman, James Robertson and Emmet G. Sullivan, all of whom were named to the bench by Mr. Clinton in 1994; and Henry H. Kennedy Jr., appointed by Mr. Clinton in 1997……”
On Jan. 2, 2002, Judge Henry H. Kennedy Jr. of Federal Disrict Court in Washington overturned one of President Bush’s earliest executive orders which required federal contractors to post notices telling workers they did not have to join unions.
And, even though the Senate balked at the idea, the House is going to open a Congressional inquiry prompted by the Bush administration’s domestic surveillance program. What do you suppose the odds are that this will not be all about politics?